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The Concept of Reinforcement

Reinforcement is a concept developed by the famous behaviourist, B. F. Skinner (1974), and fundamental in his theories of human behaviour. Reinforcement basically stipulates that behaviour is more or less likely to occur based on the consequences that follow it. So, if a behaviour is followed by positive reinforcement, that behaviour will be more likely to occur again. All human behaviour can be seen to be governed by schedules of
Reinforcement is one of the most important tools and essential for encouraging change in a child’s behaviour. Difficult behaviour cannot change if good behaviour is not acknowledged and reinforced; catch a child doing something right/good, i.e. opening a door for a friend, then reinforce this good behaviour, i.e. praise. Never stop praising!
Basically, when a child displays good behaviour, however incidental, remember praise, praise, praise. This positive reinforcement will make the behaviour more likely to occur again. Consistently reinforcing good behaviour is just as important as creating rules and issuing consequences.
A powerful reinforcer of good behaviour is in front of a group, class or whole school. Peers can be a powerful form of reinforcement to aid behaviour change. For example, a child who finds it difficult not to react, walks away from a situation which would usually have caused them to react. This “walking away” behaviour is then reinforced in front of the class, e.g. praise and/or token rewards (see p.54–55). Reinforcing good behaviour is not only an effective way of increasing good behaviour; it is also a natural way of increasing a child’s self-esteem. Children feel good about themselves when they feel that they:
1.      feel noticed by others
2.      are told what they have done well and rewarded for this
3.      feel respected by others through points 1 and 2 above
When children feel good about themselves they become more inclined to behave better in the classroom.

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